Texas school districts urged to do safety training with ALERRT. But what is itexactly?

The program includes 16 hours of training in team movement, room entry techniques, approach and breaching the crisis, shooting and moving, as well as post engagement priorities of work.
Published: Aug. 14, 2022 at 9:17 PM CDT
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SAN MARCOS, Texas (KBTX) - By the end of the week, nearly all Brazos Valley students will have returned to class, but this school year may feel different than last.

It was a little more than two months ago that a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and killed nineteen students and two teachers. In June, Governor Abbott directed Texas State University in San Marcos to provide training to all Texas School Districts through its nationally recognized program called Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training or ALERRT.

It’s where police, paramedics, and school personnel learn to take on an active shooter and respond to deadly attacks.

On the July day we visited, advanced breaching was the lesson at hand and the instructor was Cliff Woitena an Assistant Police Chief for League City Police in Galveston County.

“If people are dying on the other side of the door, time is life. The more efficient and effective our breach is, the faster we can get in there and mitigate the threat,” said Woitena when explaining why this training was so important, especially for patrol officers who may be the first on the scene of an active incident.

“Our communities are expecting our officers to be able to force entry into these types of events,” he said.

One of the biggest criticisms following the massacre in Uvalde was how long it took officers to breach the classroom and take out the gunman.

After Uvalde, it was Governor Abbott who urged school districts to participate in the ALERRT training.

“We sadly recognize we cannot do anything to bring back the precious lives that were taken; however, we must do everything in our power to prevent the same tragic ending from happening again,” said Gov. Abbott. “An important part of these prevention efforts must focus on the proper training of law enforcement and school administrators on how to respond when they face the threat of an active shooter on their campus. This vital training, which is delivered by veteran first responders with proven experience in active attack response and police training, will help law enforcement on school campuses better respond to these situations.”

The ALERRT program at Texas State University was born in the wake of the 1999 Columbine attack and relies on advanced training and coordination between law enforcement, medical, and school employees.

“We have been participating in this program for several years now,” said Bryan ISD Executive Director of Operations Ron Clary. “When it comes to safety, it’s not one person’s responsibility, it’s not the responsibility of the department, it’s everybody’s responsibility - whether you’re an administrator, custodian, teacher, bus driver, everybody has a role.”

The breakdown in leadership and command that happened in Uvalde highlights the importance of collaboration and a singular focus. It’s why Robert Collier from the San Antonio Police Department is here.

“It’s just like how it is out in the streets. You get people from different jurisdictions and departments all responding to help and we all have to work together as a team. So, I do believe it’s a good standard to have to get training like this so everyone is on the same page and all that,” said Officer Collier.

The program includes 16 hours of training in team movement, room entry techniques, approach and breaching the crisis, shooting and moving, as well as post engagement priorities of work. The vital training has been shown to shorten response times and strengthen law enforcement abilities.

While the hope is that the training will never be used in real life, the realities of Uvalde, Santa Fe, El Paso, and even here in Bryan at Ken Moore Cabinets, demand it’s not a matter of “if” there will be another attack, it’s when and who will be ready.

“I think you know a lot of us could do a fire drill in our sleep because we’ve done them so many times when we were kids in school and it’s the same principle that we want people to know what to do in the case of an active shooter, just like your old football coach would tell you, practice makes perfect, and so we want to keep practicing,” said Clary.

Governor Abbott’s office says it has taken significant action to provide all available resources to support the Uvalde community following the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Those actions include:

  • Initiating the State of Texas’ comprehensive plan to assist and support members of the community, including co-locating state agency representatives to the Family Assistance Center for on-hand assistance in finding benefits.
  • Issuing a disaster declaration at the request of local leaders to accelerate all available state and local resources to assist the Uvalde community.
  • Requesting Texas legislative leaders convene special legislative committees to begin examining and developing legislative recommendations on school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety, and more.
  • Directing the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) to begin immediately conducting comprehensive school safety reviews to ensure all Texas public schools are following the appropriate procedures to maximize school safety.
  • Directing the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to provide strategies to make Texas public schools safer through heightened safety standards.
  • Investing an initial $5 million into establishing a long-term Family Resiliency Center (FRC) in Uvalde County to serve as a hub for community services, including access to critical mental health resources.
  • Working with the OneStar Foundation to create a one-stop webpage for donations to support the victims’ families, teachers, and the Uvalde community.

Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman, and House Appropriations Chair Dr. Greg Bonnen announced in late June the transfer of $105.5 million to support additional school safety and mental health initiatives through August 31, 2023. They said this additional funding will boost actions the State of Texas has already taken to make schools safer and support the mental health of children, teachers, and families following the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

$100.5 million will be transferred to state agencies and programs to enhance school safety and mental health services in Uvalde and throughout Texas.

The funding will provide:

  • $50 million for bullet-resistant shields;
  • $5.8 million to expand the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT) statewide;
  • $4.7 million to the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to increase Multisystemic Therapy (MST) across the state;
  • $950,000 to HHSC to expand Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) teams across the state;
  • $7 million for rapid response training by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center and $3 million for local law enforcement agencies to offset travel expenditures associated with the training;
  • $7 million to the Texas School Safety Center for on-site campus assessments to evaluate access control measures;
  • $17.1 million for school districts to purchase silent panic alert technology; and
  • $5 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety to expand fusion center research and capabilities.

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